Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – March 27, 2012 - Whether you are looking to have your home windows replaced, new siding installed on your garage or a pool built for the summer months ahead, it’s always important to find a home contractor that you can trust. The Better Business Bureau recommends following this smart shopper checklist before choosing a contractor for your home.
In 2011, BBB received more than 6,000 complaints against general contractors, which was up 11% from the previous year. While there are many trustworthy and reliable contractors out there, there are always those unscrupulous few that end up charging too much and doing too little or nothing at all.
“You want a home contractor you can trust, so watch out for red flags from those just looking to make a quick buck,” said Caitlin Vancas, Public Relations Director of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Be especially wary of doing business with a contractor who solicits business door-to-door. This could mean that the contractor is not from a local, established business and is instead just passing through and trying to scam innocent consumers.”
BBB advises consumers to follow this smart shopper checklist before choosing a home contractor:
Be picky and have lots of options. Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not be the best. Obtain at least two to three references from former customers of the contractor, find out if they were satisfied with the work that was done and inspect the work yourself if possible.
Make sure they are certified and insured. Consumers should ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage. Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city you are completing the project in. Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.
As of July 1, 2009, Pennsylvania enacted the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act requiring contractors to register with the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. To check whether a contractor is registered with the Office of the Attorney General, call 888-520-6680 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov. Under the law, home improvement contracts are required to have this toll free number and the registration number posted in the contract.
Get everything in writing. Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. Read and understand the contract before signing and do not sign if there are blank lines or if there are statements you do not understand. Law requires a copy of the signed contract be given to you at the time of signing. Get all verbal promises in writing. Any warranty offered on products by the contractor should be in writing and scrutinized carefully. Make certain you understand all the terms and conditions, including the length of the warranty. Include start and completion dates in the contract.
Remember the rule of thirds and follow it. A rule of thumb is to pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion. In fact, the law actually states for a contract of more than $1,000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit in excess of 1/3 of the contract price, or 1/3 of the contract price plus the cost of special order materials. Make sure you get a receipt from the contractor and that the contract properly accounts for the amount you have already paid.
When you are ready to call a contractor, check with the BBB first by visiting www.bbb.org to check out a company’s Business Review or by calling 877-267-5222. Finding a good contractor may take some effort, but your hard work will pay off. Make your home the best it can be by hiring a reputable, quality contractor.
About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.